America’s Aged Housing Stock: Taking Inventory

A report details cities with the largest share of homes built prior to 1940.

The most recent U.S. Census data show that 12.3% of all existing homes in the U.S. were built before 1940, according to a report on the state of the nation’s housing stock commissioned by FilterBuy, a direct-to-consumer replacement air filter brand serving residences and businesses.

Almost one-third of home buyers would prefer purchasing a new house, but the demand for new homes outpaces the supply considerably nationwide, according to the report, which ranked cities according to the share of homes built before 1940. While some locations hardly existed 80 years ago, others show that more than 40% of all homes were built prior to 1940.

The report was generated for FilterBuy by Lattice Publishing, Santa Monica, California. Using public and proprietary datasets, Lattice Publishing produces data-driven content on its own behalf and on the behalf of brands.

When it comes to buying a newly-built home, demand far outpaces supply, notes the report. A survey from the National Association of Home Builders found that in 2018, 31% of home buyers wanted to purchase a brand-new home. Another report by NAHB found that 41% of millennial home buyers would prefer to own a brand-new home.

Despite many buyers’ preference for new homes, only about 11% of home sales each year are for new construction. The rest are for existing homes, many of which were built decades ago. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau data show that only 4.6% were built in the past five years.

Older homes have their pros and cons. According to research from the National Association of Realtors, many buyers who purchase existing homes appreciate their charm and character, and others believe that these homes offer lower prices or better value.

On the other hand, older homes also may be more expensive to own due to structural issues, outdated systems, and cosmetics, as well as the presence of hazardous materials. Materials such as asbestos, lead-based paint, and radon were once common building materials; however, these materials are now known to be hazardous to human health. The Environmental Protection Agency states that exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing lung disease such as lung cancer. Additionally, mold and volatile organic compounds from remodeling activities are more common in older homes.

Not surprisingly, some parts of the country are more likely to have older homes than others. States with the most old homes are located in the Northeast. More specifically, more than 30% of homes in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island were built before 1940. By contrast, states in the South and the West have a significantly smaller share of older homes — fewer than 2% of homes in Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada were constructed before 1940.

At the city level there is significantly more geographic variation in which places have the most old homes. To find which cities have the highest percentage of homes built before 1940, researchers analyzed housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Researchers also analyzed each city’s percentage of homes built after 2010, as well as the city’s median home price based on the Zillow Home Value Index. For reference, the median price for a home in the U.S. is $256,663. Cities were categorized into groups based on population size: small (100,000–149,999), midsize (150,000–349,999), and large (350,000 or more).

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, access the original report on FilterBuy’s website: https://filterbuy.com/resources/cities-with-oldest-homes/. The report includes a table with data on more than 300 cities and all 50 states.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted on behalf of FilterBuy by Lattice Publishing. This article has been edited. New York City photo credit: Lattice Publishing.

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